NEW YORK – They can't go home again, but on Wednesday two world-famous hawks evicted from their nest atop a posh Fifth Avenue building were trying to do just that.
"I heard the cry of a hawk, I looked up and I saw Lola, the female, soaring up Fifth Avenue," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who visited the former site of the nest on a building where actress Mary Tyler Moore (search) is among the residents.
Across the avenue, Lola's mate, Pale Male, was sighted in a Central Park (search) tree.
"They were discombobulated, flying around in an agitated way," Benepe said. Lola was circling her former nest, carrying twigs to try to rebuild it. Later, her mate was seen perched in the tree with a pigeon he had caught.
The urban drama began to unfold Tuesday, in the rain, when workmen raised a scaffold to the top of the building and tore out the nest that lay over an arched cornice, anchored by spikes originally intended to keep pigeons from depositing their droppings. The workers removed the spikes too.
For the past nine years, thousands of bird lovers have come to see to the nest on the 12th-floor ledge that's been home to Pale Male, so named for his plumage. There, he fathered 25 chicks with a succession of mates — the last three fledglings in June.
The hawks gained fame through television specials and a book, "Red-Tails in Love."
The raptors are no strangers to city life though they normally nest in trees. There is no previous record of a pair taking up permanent residence on a high-rise building.
The birds are not merely a spectacle of nature, however, said Alex Matthiessen, executive director of the Riverkeeper environmental organization. They are natural predators, helping limit the rat population in Central Park.
Bird watchers and neighbors were angry and dismayed by the nest's destruction, which apparently was done on orders of the building's co-op board.
Brown Harris Stevens Property Management Services issued a statement Wednesday saying that they do not own the property and had acted "on behalf of the cooperative building owners in a management capacity. ... The building researched and carried out the removal of the nest during an inactive period as a safety precaution."
"What strikes me is the selfishness of a small group of residents who are scarcely affected, but have robbed thousands of people, including children, of the pleasure of these magnificent birds, right by Central Park," Matthiessen said. "These animals are a wonderful show of how nature can exist in the city. This was a violent, disruptive act."
But there was not much parks authorities or environmentalists could do: Unless a nest contains hatching eggs or small chicks, it is not illegal to remove it from private property.
Benepe said he hopes neighbors erect their own anti-pigeon spikes, perhaps luring Pale Male and Lola to build a new nest.
"Hopefully, there will be a more receptive welcoming board," Benepe said.